YouTube is a website designed for sharing videos. It is one of the biggest, most popular sites in the world, and is eating up the audience that used to watch TV. Some stats:
WHY USE YOUTUBE?
YouTube is a viable self-promotion and self-expression platform for all writers and should be considered. You can use it in a small way – you can film promotional talks or readings you do and store and share them there. Or you can use it in a bigger way and make and share videos regularly, and aim for a larger audience.
JHP IMPRINTS ON YOUTUBE
What follows is a collection of what we’ve learnt from using the channel so far, along with some practical technical advice on setting up your own channel.
WHAT WE'VE LEARNT FROM YOUTUBE: ZERO BOOKS
Zero Books has a small but growing YouTube channel. We currently have 23k subscribers and our videos have drawn 254k views in the last month (June 2018). This modest success is the result of our discovering the right format for our videos and developing a regular production schedule.
Because Zero Books is a critical-theory imprint, producing video essays is a natural format for us. While book trailers and author interviews are perhaps more obvious approaches, our audience is responsive to video essays and this format allows us to create content based on what is trending or in the news, as well as to create videos that might be of interest to our readers for years to come.
Our approach to video production has been to focus on regular production and slow growth, while keeping tabs on which videos are most successful in terms of views, rather than on creating videos with the aim of going viral.
Beyond the Viral Video
Because of the potential for broad exposure on YouTube there is a temptation to approach video production with the aim of going viral. However, the aim of an author or book publisher should not be to create one widely viewed video, but rather to produce many videos that, while not necessarily going viral, find an audience. Producing a viral video is largely a matter of luck. It’s impossible to know in advance precisely what is going to hit the zeitgeist in order to get shared by millions. Further, YouTube’s algorithm has changed over the years in order to disincentivize clickbait tactics. What this means is that, in order to promote books through YouTube, it is better to think of your task in terms of developing a YouTube channel rather than developing a viral video.
Book trailers on YouTube can get a lot of views, for instance the trailer for How to Hang a Witch from Random House has over 215k views, however producing high-quality book trailers on a weekly basis is beyond the capabilities of our imprint, and a series of book trailers for one book is unlikely to inspire people to subscribe. Further, book publishers might reconsider creating book trailers as their main focus because, unless the books are part of a series or from a narrowly defined imprint, a channel consisting of book trailers may be too eclectic and lead to crating a nebulous channel with little consistent appeal.
Authors and publishers creating a YouTube channel should decide on what sort of format will fit best given their interest or aims.
In order to discover what format might work best for your channel, search YouTube for the channels that are on your topic. These need not be, perhaps should not be, channels produced by other book publishers or authors, but rather they should be the channels that are successful in your niche.
For example, when searching for Pagan channels online one finds that most everyone is vlogging but also that there is no major or big channel in the niche. Investing in a good camera and microphone, getting outside in some nice locations to shoot rather than sitting at a desk or in your living room, and editing videos to be a bit more like short documentaries rather than vlogs, could be a way to rise above the amateurs in the niche, gain an audience and get views. Using Zero Books as a model one might write short scripts based on ideas in the titles in your books and then deliver these scripts to the camera while editing in montages of nature or related content.
Searching for history channels what one immediately finds are Ted Talks. An author or publisher attempting to build a YouTube channel for history books could emulate Ted Talks by find a space or stage where you can record a series of lectures from a stage. The key is to make sure the audio for these videos is excellent and to shoot the videos with more than one camera. Movement is essential for a successful Ted Talk.
If this is not possible, one can use a static shot format in a more obvious vlogging environment like a front room. An author or publisher might set up a podium in front of a bookshelf and deliver lectures on history based on their books to the camera. However, audio quality is still vitally important, as is lighting and video quality. Again, investing in a some equipment including an HD camera could make a big difference. Also, if you are going to use a static shot for your lectures, edit in animations and graphics that illustrate key concepts from your books in order to make the videos visually interesting.
Overall, the trick to creating a successful YouTube channel is to find a format that fits with your imprint or area of expertise, a format that you can work within while maintaining a regular schedule, and an approach to video production that you enjoy.
O BOOKS: WHAT WE’VE LEARNT CREATING O-BOOKS PRESENTS
We launched O-Books Presents in October 2017. The aim was to showcase our authors via author interviews.
At the time of writing (July 2018), we have almost fifty videos, and our content has been watched for 106,000 minutes or 1766 hours. Our subscriber count is 191. Our top videos have generated 1-3 thousand views.
The channel is a work in progress, though we feel the content in itself is strong and does a good job of showcasing our authors. The stats yield interesting facts and lessons.
THE BIGGEST LESSON – GETTING INTO THE ALGORITHM
To gain real exposure on YouTube, you want the YouTube algorithim to present your videos to as many people as possible in the “Up next” recommended videos panel.
The algorithm rewards:
If viewers watch video after video on your channel, YouTube will really reward you.
Many channels go out of their way to keep you glued and addicted to their content, including daily uploads and high production values.
We don’t have the resources to compete with these channels, and a lot of their tactics won’t be appropriate to us. But we should bear in mind the importance of attracting viewers to watch successive videos.
The idea is that if people love what you do, they will want more of the same, so your content/brand needs to have clear purpose and identity. Ideally, if people liked one video, there should be another close by that will attract them.
To encourage successive viewing, the practice of grouping content thematically via playlists, and linking to videos at the end of videos (explained below) should be observed.
At the moment:
We’re happy that our videos are visible and generating views from the algorithim. We continue to experiment with other formats to make ourselves more visible on YouTube, and to increase this number.
TRY THE HOW-TO FORMAT
YouTube is a giant search engine. People ask it questions when they want to find out how to do something, whether it’s how to wire a plug or how to get rid of their depression.
We have curated a selection of “How-to” videos, which are much shorter than average, with the aim of appealing to a shorter attention span and gaining some of the traffic from people who come to ask YouTube questions.
The analytics show us that on the Binge-Eating playlist in particular, viewers watch one video before jumping to another one. The playlist also started off with very little promotion, and under ten views per video, and now is regularly gaining viewers organically from the YouTube algorithm.
Overall, (so far) the views haven’t been dramatic enough to suggest making this the primary video format for the channel, but where the author work is appropriate, we believe we should continue to develop this kind of video.
YouTube feels like a medium we, as a publisher, can’t afford not to be on. The great benefit is that once a video is up there, and it is being discovered, your PR is being done round the clock, while you sleep, as people from all over the world watch your videos. YouTube is so large, even with a modest offering, your content can be viewed for many, many hours.
3 THINGS EVERY AUTHOR SHOULD CONSIDER WHEN SETTING UP THEIR YOUTUBE CHANNEL
The 3 premises of content marketing are these:
The first questions you can ask yourself are:
AT THE VERY LEAST, FILM YOUR EVENTS
Even if creating a channel is not for you, at the very least, you should film every event you do and create a library of them on YouTube. You will build up a great resource of promotional material, which you can edit, transcribe, and share with anyone in the world at a click of a button.
USE CARDS AND DIRECT FOLLOWERS TO OTHER VIDEOS
Cards are live links that appear on top of your YouTube videos, directing the viewer to other videos of yours and other content of yours, and encouraging the viewer to subscribe to your channel. Used skillfully, especially on short videos, they can be used to “hook” your viewers into watching more content from you.
If you plan to interview your authors online, it’s useful to bear these points in mind:
OTHER JHP AUTHORS ON YOUTUBE